Alyssum: Rising the colourful carpet flower

Alyssum plants have been grown for ages. In 16th century Spain, sweet alyssum was found that borders edible gardens or grows wild on Mediterranean beaches. Not only are Alyssum flowers beautiful, but they also attract many of the beneficial pests that will help you grow a garden.

Alyssum is a short lived perennial and has been cultivated long enough to develop heat and drought tolerant varieties. These tiny flowers self-seed and can be biennial in temperate climates. Since Alyssum doesn't get very high, it's an excellent way to delimit a square-foot garden or create a barrier between the rows.

With its tiny flowers, Alyssum is a powerful shaker. There are many different varieties in many different shades and colors. In the garden zones of Alyssum, purple, pink, yellow and white flowers bloom. Plant white snow crystals or try a pink variety that blooms in spring and fall, such as the royal carpet. Whether you choose snow white or pink, you don't have to look far; Seedlings are in every nursery.

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Brief instructions for care

Lobularia maritima produces flowers in white or pink tones. Source: Hortulus

Common names Alyssum, sweet alyssum, sweet Alison, carpet flower
Scientific name Lobularia maritima (syn.Alyssum maritimum)
family Cabbage plants
Height & Spread 2 inches to 12 inches tall, 8 inches to 12 inches wide
Bright Full sun to partial shade
floor Slightly acidic, well drained
water 1 to 2 inches per week
Pests & Diseases Botrytis (gray mold), clubroot, cyclamen mite, Bagrada beetle

Everything about the sweet alyssum

Alyssum by the seaAlyssum thrives in the Mediterranean climate of the California coast. Source: Jaykhuang

Sweet alyssum was originally grown in southern Europe, mainly in Spain. The first records of sweet alyssum date back to the 16th century. The common variety of Alyssum, Lobularia maritima, was hybridized and developed in the 19th century. No wonder these white flowers are still used in edible gardens today, as they attract many beneficial insects. They are also relatively maintenance-free.

Alyssum is known for its low and wide stature and its use in bedding as a carpet flower. The root of the scientific name Lobularia maritima comes from the Latin words for "seed capsule" and "coast". The plant has a generic synonym called Alyssum. Some alyssums are annuals. Some are short-lived and perennial. In optimal climates, this plant is a short biennial.

Alyssum plants belong to the Brassicaceae or mustard family and have simple gray-green leaves that are arranged alternately on a central stem. Trichomes cover the leaves. Alyssum's small, fragrant symmetrical flowers have four petals and grow in clusters. The flower colors range from blue to purple or red to pink. The most common alyssum plants have white flowers. If you want to grow the alyssum of the old days, look for a white variety.

Sweet Alyssum plants are small and herbaceous. They bloom from summer to autumn. When flowers bloom and die, seed pods called silicles form. As winter approaches, the pods dry and open, spreading the seeds across the ground. In early spring, the sweet alyssum then returns to bloom.

Because alyssums grow no more than 12 inches high and 12 inches wide, they are often used to demarcate gardens and demarcate areas. This edging is used either for design purposes or to attract beneficial insects to an edible garden. They also attract a lot of pollinators, which promotes pollination for food production.

Some varieties of sweet alyssum are powerful spreaders and may need to be grown in containers. Check with your local agricultural advisory office to determine the best varieties for your area. If you're not sure about the species you collected at a nearby plant nursery, grow them in hanging baskets or containers. However, there are many species that are adapted to different regions of the world, so it shouldn't be difficult to find plants.

Types of Alyssum

There are many varieties of Alyssum to choose from – more than we can present here. Here are a few celebrities to look for:

  • Snow crystals: This plant is heat tolerant, with beautiful white flowers that bloom in early spring. The minimum height of snow crystals is 6 inches.
  • Easter hood: This large plant is available in shades of white, pink, red, and pink. The minimum height of the Easter hood is 10 inches.
  • Lavender sweet alyssum: This lavender flowering plant blooms twice: in early spring and in late autumn. It's about 8 inches tall, so it's great for hanging baskets and bedding. It's also great for incorporating purple to lavender flowers into a landscape and for related uses.
  • Royal carpet: This plant blooms in bright purple to lavender flowers twice a year in spring and autumn. It is a low breeder. Purple and lavender flowers spread out about 10 inches wide at just 3 inches high.
  • Sweet Alyssum pastel carpet: This medium tall plant comes in light pastel colors of pink, white, yellow, and rose. The maximum height is 9 inches.

Sweet alyssum care

White alyssum flowersBoth white alyssum flowers like this one and the pink ones are beautiful. Source: beautifulcataya

Alyssums are easy to care for and many varieties are now dry, heat and frost resistant. Choose the right variety for your region. Let's discuss the basic requirements for Alyssums.

Light & temperature

Sweet alyssum plants need full sun to partial shade. Give sweet alyssum at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Alyssums are tough against USDA Zones 5 through 9 and can withstand cold temperatures of up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Alyssum prefers cooler conditions and generally doesn't do well above 85 degrees. There are frost-resistant varieties that can withstand the cold and some that can withstand hot weather.

To overwinter alyssum, either cut it off in winter, cover it with frost cloth, or take containers inside. For these non-heat-resistant varieties, provide a shade towel in the summer.

Water & moisture

Cute alyssum plants love moist soil with at least 1 to 5 inches of water per week. Avoid overwatering alyssum as it is prone to root and crown rot. When watering sweet alyssum, do it in the morning, before the soil has warmed up. In hot weather, water sweet alyssum in the morning and at dusk. Dusk provides the greatest protection for water as it gives your plants more time to absorb moisture before the sun evaporates it.

Drip irrigation protects sweet alyssum leaves and flowers that are damaged by overhead watering. Soaking hoses are also suitable. Since sweet alyssum is a drought tolerant plant, avoid giving it too much water. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. If it rains consistently for a while, don't water.


Sweet Alyssum prefers slightly acidic, loamy, well-drained soil. It easily survives in potting soil in containers. In the soil, sweet alyssum enjoys simple, slightly modified garden soil, but it will work well in poor soils if all you have to do is work with it. Alyssum prefers a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, so keep your soil within this range.


Lobularia maritima, which grows in the ground, does not require fertilizer in prepared soils, but is more suitable for the planting period with granular slow-release fertilizers. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer once a month in poor soil and containers. Provide annual fertilizer as a ground cover. Use a balanced 20-20-20 formula for this.


Ant on AlyssumAn ant wanders over the alyssum flowers. Source: TJ Gehling

All Alyssum plants spread vigorously and re-sow annually. However, they do not multiply well by dividing and are prone to transplant shock.

To propagate from seeds, collect seed pods from your annual flowers. Put them in a paper bag and wait for them to pop open. Then sow the seeds over a seed start mix indoors, directly in a container or in your garden after the risk of frost has passed, 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.

Indoors, provide a heating mat for the launch trays and a moisture dome to trap heat and moisture. Sweet alyssum seeds germinate at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees. In about a week or two, you will have sweet alyssum sprouts.

After your seeds sprout, thin them to about 6 inches apart. When they reach seedling status, divide them up and bring them to their permanent home in a container or your yard 12 inches apart. Don't put them outside until the danger of frost has passed. While full grown alyssum enjoys cooler to cold weather, seedlings cannot withstand extremes like frost.

When sowing sweet alyssum seeds outdoors, they will germinate in early spring. Sow seeds like you would at home. After you've sown and they germinate, thin the plants to 6 inches and finally 12 inches apart.


Sweet alyssum flowers benefit from a small pruning. To encourage extended blooms, pinch off the first or two buds. This gives them the start they need to attract beneficial insects to your edible garden.

After the Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) flowers bloom and die, seed them to encourage more blooms. Some types of carpet flowers set flowers very quickly and bloom several times in a season. If you have lots of cute alyssum flowers, shear them to a third of their size. Then the alyssum flowers will come back stronger in your garden for the next season.

Sweet Alyssum appreciates a consistent harvest. Herbaceous plants that do not interact with humans do not have long life cycles. Go to your garden regularly to interact with this plant and treat yourself to some free herbs for a salad.

Alyssum plants appreciate being cut and mulched in preparation for snow and frost. Mulch captures the heat and protects the alyssum roots with snow and ice from the first to the last frost. Although not necessary, as they return in the spring, you can break them down and compost just before the first frost. This also applies to soil plants and plants in containers.


Sweet alyssumSweet alyssum is sometimes called a carpet flower. Source: Hobo Matt

While cute alyssum is maintenance free, there are a few chores that you have to do while caring for this mustard family member. Give them what they need and you will see why they have a good reputation.

Growing problems

If you didn't plant alyssum in well-drained soil, it could wither. This is especially true in hot weather. Except poor drainage, alyssum has no problems.


Because alyssum plants are useful insect attractants, not many insects can defeat them. But the annoying Cyclamen harms these plants and their flowers. Cyclamen mites are tiny and difficult to spot until they bloom. They feed on the sap in flowers and leaves and curl up in the process.

Cut off damaged areas of your plants that have been eaten by tiny mites. Then spray the plants with neem oil or horticultural oil to kill any eggs there. Treat with insecticidal soap if necessary. Search your yard for these signs and quickly catch them and you'll be fine. Your plants will bloom all season long.

Plants in cool climates are prone to Bagrada beetle, a form of the shield beetle or real beetle that sucks sap from the flowers and leaves of annuals. They hang from the underside of your flowering plants and lay tiny eggs. Check the leaves regularly and remove the eggs quickly. Flick Bagrada bugs in warm, soapy water. If the infestation is severe, remove the entire plant. Early detection is essential for this pest.


Gray mold caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, causes a gray, moldy substance to form on fragrant flowers. It's most common in cool, humid climates. Remove damaged parts of the plant. Apply a spray fungicide every two to three weeks if necessary.

Club root is caused by a fungus that affects plants in the cabbage family. It can remain in the planting media for up to 18 years. Swollen roots make it difficult for infected plants to absorb water and nutrients. Cultural control methods are best used here. Disinfect the tools, replace the planting medium in containers annually, and practice crop rotation. Remove infected plants and leave fields fallow. Solarize the growing medium in areas where the infection was present.

frequently asked Questions

Close up of Alyssum flowersThis close-up shows the beautiful shape of alyssum flowers. Source: tracydekalb

Q: Does Alyssum grow back every year?

A: Perennials will return every year.

Q: Does Alyssum like sun or shade?

A: Alyssum likes at least 6 hours of sun a day. If it is hot where you live, provide partial shade.

Q: Is Alyssum annual or perennial?

A: The climate and the strains you grow are interrelated. In optimal conditions, they are perennials. They are annual in less than optimal conditions.

Q: Does Alyssum bloom all summer?

A: In certain regions it blooms all summer. Some frost tolerant varieties bloom in the spring and then again in the fall.

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